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Luminous, Lucent, Transcendant Kate Winslet Could Win Her 2nd Oscar for “Wonder Wheel”

Wonder Wheel 3

Lustrous, luminous, transcendent Kate Winslet is the wonder of Woody Allen’s new “Wonder Wheel.”
Is there any American filmmaker alive today who writes  such great roles for women? No. There simply isn’t. And as photographed by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Kate Winslet seems to be a cinematic miracle of color and light, majesty and emotion,

You simply can’t take your eyes off her. Storaro and Allen have combined to give her a cinematic beauty that makes you gasp, in a multi-faceted role that makes you applaud. She is playing Ginny, a Brooklyn waitress, who works in a Coney Island Clam House. I have known SOOOO many Ginnys in my lifetime, and British though she is, Winslet absolutely nails her Ginny to the Coney Island boardwalk. And it’s  stirring performance in the grand tradition. She’s every woman. And every woman I’ve known, from Brooklyn, trying to make a better life for herself and her family. And trying to find love at the same time, having given up her dreams of being an actress earlier in her life.

Winslet’s Ginny seems the simplest of creatures.. But Allen’s writing and her bravura performance proves that every woman is as complex as a whirlwind. Or a rollercoaster. Or a Wonder Wheel at  Coney Island, to use this film’s great metaphor. Winslet has never seemed so bedeviled and so bewitching at the same time. She’s a housewife in waitress’ outfit that she wears like a queen, as she goes about her frantic daily work of cooking and cleaning for the whole of Brooklyn it seems.

Allen and Storaro capture the ordinary woman’s extraordinariness. She is married to a lout (James Belushi) and having a torrid affair with Justin Timberlake, the local lifeguard. Timberlake’s string-bean-ness seems out of place as a life guard, but he, too, has movie star charisma in buckets instead of muscles, that make all the women in the film falling for him make sense.Justin Timberlake Wonder Wheel He and Belushi have both never been better.Kate Winslet 1

She is playing Ginny, a common-as-they-come Brooklyn waitress, who is as uncommon, as she is earth-bound. Winslet’s a fiery red-head this time. And in Storaro’s use of orange and amber light, she seems so on fire, she is burning up the screen. It is no surprise then that her red-headed son is an arsonist, setting  a fire every time he’s left alone. The fires remind him of his mother.

And Juno Temple is Belushi’s neglected daughter, who turns up as a “Marked” woman, being chased by the mob, because she married a gansta, and became a “canary” who sang on her husband, making her a woman on the run for her life. She hides  out in Winslet’s and Belushi’s  humble household underneath the ever-present Wonder Wheel. Young, blonde Temple has the role of her career here, too, and is doomed from the first seconds we see her taking her first tentative steps under the Wonder Wheel.

In a simple car ride in a romantic rain storm with Timberlake, she becomes, as he says “as beautiful as the rain light.”Storaro has lit her in golds and blues to emphasize her beauty as well as her melancholy. She, too, is magnificent in this film.

Storaro  and set designer Santo Loquasto make more magic by making Coney Island in the ’50s look like the Riviera.

Winslet’s performance is so heart-breaking and towering it immediately recalls the great screen performances of screen queens past. Joan Crawford in particular. The shop girl who was not a shop girl.  The waitress who was not a waitress. And reminds you that not since the ’40s have actresses consistently seen parts like this. Winslet’s Ginny is the  working class version of Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine in Allen’s recent Oscar winner “Blue Jasmine.” “Wonder Wheel” is his best film since “Midnight in Paris” and is now one of my favorite Woody Allen movies. It’s right up there with the best. It reminds me why I love Brooklyn. And New York City.

“Wonder Wheel” is a movie movie about romance and melodrama and great actresses playing great roles. And it ends this year’s superlative NYFF with a BANG!

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Amazing Emma Stone Dazzles in “Battle of the Sexes”! Best (Lesbian) Tennis Movie EVAH!


“Battle of the Sexes” is one of the Best Films of the year. It contains the best ever filmed Tennis Match, and last year’s Oscar Winner Emma Stone is just GLORIOUS in it! She’s in her prime here and proves that yea, she CAN act up there with the Big Ones in Hollywood Heaven.. And will for sure garner her second Oscar nomination for her charming, conflicted Tennis Queen Billie Jean King.

“Battle of the Sexes” while it purports to elucidate the Tennis Match to end all Tennis Matches of the 1970s (And I don’t even like Tennis!)between feminist heroine Billie Jean King and self-proclaimed Male chauvinist Pig Bobby Riggs (an excellent Steve Carrell), it really is Billie Jean’s surprising coming out love story between her and her devoted hair dresser (in more ways than one)(Andrea Riseborough). Their extended, erotic, lesbian love scenes are something to cheer about. They’ll leave you as breathless as the participants. Tender, beautiful, moving.

I can’t ever remember this many completely shown Sapphic sex scenes in a mainstream American film, and that really is just a joy to behold. Not over-the-top, not overdone, Stone & Riseborough really hit the mark as two lovers who must hide in the shadows and sneak around even though it’s the supposedly enlightened 1970s.

Actually, Emma Stone has never been better. She is growing before our delighted eyes in to one of the Best Screen Actreses Maybe Ever. And Steve Carrell is at the top of his game here, too, as the buffoon-ish Bobby Riggs. “The Battle of the Sexes” is a Match Set. Love All.
“The Battle of the Sexes” is that rare thing, and truly refreshing movie.

Live Blogging the Oscars! First up, Lucas Hedges!

lucas-hedges-oscarlucas-hedges-shaved-headlucas-hedges-manchesterLive Blogging the Oscars has begun! I never start this early! It’s barely 6pm EST, but Supporting Nominee Lucas Hedges of “Manchester by the Sea” just gave the first speech of the evening to Sandy Kenyon of ABC.

Lucas was in full head-shaved mode for his hit Off Broadway play “Yen.” His trade-mark red-hair was completely gone. He was rocking an out-sized but chic, black bow-tie and traditional tux and he told Kenyon straight off “I don’t think I’m going to win.” But quickly added “The Nomination is the Win.” And compared it to riding on a roller-coaster and that his car had to go through three security/bomb searches on this way it. “They were all dressed up”(the Security men) like they were in Robo-Cop. It’s crazy.” And Kenyon wanted to know how it felt to be nominated for the Oscar at age 20. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m here.”

Newsflash! Not! Natalie Portman of “Jackie, up for Best Actress, isn’t coming tonight, “because of her pregnancy.” Which didn’t stop her from coming six years ago, when she was also pregnant, and nominated for “Black Swan” which she won. She probably knew she wasn’t going to win this time. Nothing’s going to stop Emma Stone in “La La Land.” So Portman didn’t want to show up,  pregnant, and lose.

She got to the Golden Globes alright. But she did look very large.natalie-portman-pregnant#Oscar Red Carpet

#Lucas Hedges

#Natalie Portman

Oscar Nominee”Land of Mine” One of the Best Films I’ve Ever Seen

615One of the greatest pleasures of being a film critic is stumbling upon a work of pure cinematic art that will  rock your world and stay with you forever. I just had that experience with the Danish Oscar Nominated film “Land of Mine” which I feel is one of the best films I’ve ever seen IN MY LIFE. And it was totally unexpected, so it had tremendous shock value. Including suspense that didn’t let up, once it started. And I LOVE suspense. It’s so hard to create a real thriller diller, and I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of World War II movies. But “Land of Mine” blew all those preconceptions about war movies totally out of my head. I couldn’t stop watching it. I was on the edge of my seat, to the point where I felt like was STANDING, perched mid-air agog at all the atrocities of war crimes that were being perpetrated on this group of young German POWs, aged 15-18.

The premise is staggering, and it’s also true. That the Germans planted something like two million land mines on the beaches of Denmark, where they thought the alllied forces were going to land first. They never did, thank god! Or they would’ve been blown to smithereens, as many of these hapless young boys, and others, are during the course of this brutal, but brilliant film.

The Danish director/writer Martin  Zandvliet is new to me, but his talent is up there with the greats. And so is his great co-collaborator Camilla Hjelm Knudsen, DFF, who is his wife and cinematographer. “Land of Mine is filmed on a beautiful, pristine beach, where there is no civilization in evidence to spoil the view, except the roiling blue of the Atlantic Ocean.

Danish actor Roland Moller is superbly frightening as one of the most sadistic villains the screen has ever seen.He is constantly yelling at his captives in both guttural Danish and German. Telling the boy soldiers that this fate is just what they deserve, being Germans. He never lets up and he never feeds them.

Zandvliet is smart enough, as a screenwriter, however, to give him multiple dimensions. His Captain Rasmussen is simply a solider doing this dreadful duty as part of his job. And while he loves being a soldier.  we come to see he hates the horrifying assignment he is tasked with.

He has to make these teenage German P.O.W.s (This is right after WWII. ends), clear the nearly two million land-mines that are on that beautiful, wind-blown beach. And the boys, of course, do not know how to do this at all. They have no training whatsoever, and are completely lost in every imaginable way possible. Some of them are crying for their mothers

And yes, many of them are blown to bits. The lucky ones die. And Rusmussen keeps cruelly telling them, that whenan they clear the beaches of these deadly land mines, they will be sent home. They are more apt to be sent to heaven.

But Zandvliet plays his cards very close to his vest, and never lets us, the audience, know WHEN it’s coming, though we know WHAT’s coming. And he surprises us at every turn.And of course, it’s more horrifying than you could possibly imagine.

The boys start off as faceless, pale, ghostly figures, seemingly dead already, but as they film goes on several of them begins to emerge as three-dimensional characters as Rasmussen does. There are two twin brothers who are heartbreakingly protective and dependent on each other.They are both astonishingly first time actors, Emil and Oskar Belton.

A very complex wise-guy who looks almost Jewish is played grippingly by Joel Basman. There is one compelling scene where he is constantly being slapped in the face. And astonishingly he starts off laughing, and he keeps being hit and hit and hit again, until well, he is crying. Reduced to tears by the brutality of this violent assault. And dirty and foul-mouthed and repulsive as his behavior is, Basman just kills you, If this was an American film, he’d be nominated as Best Supporting Actor.

Fiskebranchen

One of the two doomed twins.Stillfoto fra filmen Under Sandet/Land of Mines. Foto: Henrik Petit

It’s wonderful that this horrifically violent but beautiful film has managed with very little fan-fanfare to land an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film in a very crowded, competitive year, it is hardly being talked up at all. It’s up to audiences to discover it and I’m sure they will. They never will be able to forget it. “Land of Mine” is one of the greats.

#Land of Mine, #German, #Best Foreign Film Nominee, #War Film, # Boy Soldiers, #Martin Zandvliet,# Twins

Why Casey Affleck Will Win Best Actor Oscar.

If I was an AMPAS voter, I think it’s just between my two favorite movies (alas, not “Jackie” evidently..sadly…)”La La Land”casey-affleck-adand “Manchester by the Sea”. Initiallly, if I were a voter, I would’ve just said “Yes!” to La Land’s bounce and bouyancy all the way, but now that I’ve had time to mull it over, if I were an Academy member, I might put down “Manchester by the Sea”as my #1 film, because it has gravitas. “La La Land” doesn’t. Not really.

And Casey Affleck’s incredible performance! Imagine how different that film would be if Matt Damon, the originally intended lead, did indeed do it. I don’t think I could ever imagine Sunny Matt as a Hot Mess. And Casey Affleck plays the conflicted male loser so believably…I mean, he really puts you in the mindset of someone who’s killed, accidentally, but I mean, I’m not going to spoil it any further… The unfathomable despair of those deaths…. It’s almost unbearable. It’s unthinkable. BUT HE BEARS IT. He survives the unimaginable, which is the point of the whole film I think,manchester-art-direction

And Kenneth Lonergan, the filmmaker, is a great under-sung America playwright, has done just that. Put the unthinkable on screen and says “Here. This is what life is about. Multiple losses. Deal with it.” And the audience and Affleck’s character, in fact, the whole of New England village Manchester itself is still grappling with the ramifications of what he did. “Manchester” is a movie that ABOUT something. It’s profound. But it’s also profoundly, unexpectedly funny, but that is its’ genius.

Surviving something you thought you’d never be able to survive. Like this past election….And still having a battered, but intact sense of humor and decency. He’s still alive. He struggles, but he goes on living. As Beckett said in “Waiting for Godot”, “I can’t go on….I go on.”

Affleck is playing one of the most original characters ever written for the screen, in that sense. And he’s won over 30 acting awards already! He’ll win BAFTA in a walk. The Brits go for the serious, the heavy(see “Hamlet”) and if he wins SAG, too! Bob’s your uncle, as the Cockneys say.manchester-by-the-sea-8

I did not like Denzel Washington, over-acting in “Fences,” is his only credible competition in the Best Actor category, but Washington did not get nominated for a BAFTA either as director or actor.  Another big snub. And he lost the Golden Globe to Affleck. And he wasn’t named as one of the five directors in the DGA.

Both, though, will get nominations on Jan.24. The next big test will be at SAG. If Affleck wins that, the game is over.

#Casey Affleck

# Best Actor Oscar

#Manchester by the Sea

# Kenneth Lonergan

  • [This article was originally  a post in the comments section of http://www.awardsdaily.com, but I thought it was too good not to reprint (and re-write it) here. Thanks as always to Awardsdaily.]
  • Meryl Streep Makes the Globes Truly Golden w/Incredible Speech. “La La Land” Wins Best Direction!

    meryl-streep-1Meryl Streep made one of the most incredible speeches I’ve ever heard upon winning the Cecil B. deMille Lifetime Achievement Award. I’ll never forget it. It was very political against the current incoming regime. I wanted to write it all down verbatim, but I wasn’t able to, I was experiencing it so profoundly and proudly. She ended up rhyming “heart” with “Art.” Magnificent. I’m sure it will be posted everywhere.

    At the end, of course, as they cut to commercial, she got a standing ovation.

    Shots of the “Moonlight” table with all grumpy faces. They won nothing so far. And now “La La Land” has already won five. And there’s still Best Actress and Best Picture to come. Best Score, Best Song, Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical, Best Screenplay and Best Director.

    Damien Chazelle keeps getting younger and younger or more immature-looking/seeming as he keeps winning award after award. He just topped Meryl’s mind-blowing speech with another “La La Land” win.

    #Meryl Streep

    #Oscars

    #Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement

    # Damien Chezelle

    #La La Land

     

     

    “La La Land” Sweeps Oscar Off His Feet. Emma Stone Will Win Best Actress!

    la-la-land-1I must say, I resisted “La La Land” for the longest time imaginable. I, a musical comedy queen par excellence, just did not believe the hype, that this small scale musical(seems like there’s only two people in it) couldn’t with one fell swoop bring Musicals back to the movies? And go on to win Every Single Critics Best Picture Award in the book? And have a real shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar, too? And a singing and dancing Emma Stone was going to waltz her way to the Dobly Pavillion and dance off with her own Best Actress Oscar, too? Well, that’s exactly what happened. To this film with the ridiculous title. It’s winning everything.

    And I finally saw it and I fell in love with it.

    Hard.la-la-land-2

    Starring two of the most beautiful people in the world, the aforementioned Emma Stone and the dazzlingly handsome Ryan Gosling, they not only sing their way into your heart, they dance there, too! And Ryan Gosling turns out to be an ace jazz piano player, and plays all the film’s musical numbers himself. Yes! With his own real hands! Brilliant 32- year- old director, a Hollywood wunderkind, if ever there was one. Damien Chazelle might be dancing with more than one Oscar in his hands come Awards Night.

    He’s done the impossible. He’s single=handedly brought musicals back to the movies, and he did it last year, too, with the astounding debut film “Whiplash.”

    la-la-land-3Which, for all its’ dramatics, was really a musical too. About Jazz, again. And both films are going to go down in Hollywood history as will Stone, Gosling, and Mandy Moore the brilliant choreographer. And yes, there is a third part in this film, too, J.T. Simmons, the sadist drum-teacher of “Whiplash,” which won him an Oscar last year. Here he’s a uber-nasty manager of the nightclub of sorts that our Hero Sebastian, (Gosling) has been reduced to playing Christmas ditties in.

    “La La Land” is the perfect film. For this year. It’s total escapism, and that’s what we all need right now. It just seems impossibly wonderful and harks back to all the great Movie Musicals of the 1930 through ’50s.

    Being a song and dance man myself (I’ve also written MANY musicals myself, way back when, and an opera, too), I know what Seb (as she calls Gosling) and Mia(Stone) are going through. And it’s total rejection almost all the time. That’s Show Biz. And that’s particularly LA, where I lived for one year, and wondered how the dreams were manufactured that got me there.

    “La La Land” is a love poem to LA. And I have never seen it look so gorgeous. The cinematography is candy coated and Ms. Stone wears bold, single colored costumes. After a particularly brutal audition experience, she walks sadly down pinkish Hollywood streets in a royal  blue dress. She later wears a solid yellow. Redheads are NEVER supposed to wear yellow, but Stone does, and she’s forever going to be associated with the “little yellow dress” that she’s seen dancing with Gosling as he falls in love with her.la-la-land-4 la-la-land-5

    Oh yes, Stone is playing the ultimate Aspiring LA Actress. She’s so frustrated, she starts writing her own play, a one woman show for herself. I can related. I’ve done that, too. And she doubles her despair by becoming a playwright/actress.

    And she doesn’t understand or “get” jazz. So. of course, she’s at cross-purposes with Seb, because he’s the ultimate jazz aficionado, who wants to own his own jazz club some day. She wants to be a star. And somehow, through the magic of movies, they find each other and fall predictably in love, but not toooo predictably.la-la-land-6

    “La La Land” starts with a massive traffic jam on a highway(some things never change. I hate cars. I hate smog. And I hated LA until I saw this lovely picture.) The entire stalled group of honking horns and frustrated drivers then inexplicably burst into song and dance. “Another Day of Sun,” which I found a bit much. Seb and Mia don’t sing and dance here. He honks his horn at her. She gives him the finger, and drives off. This I could relate to.la-la-land-7

    But “La La Land” is a slow burn. It’s takes it’s time getting to where it wants to go, but boy, oh boy, when it gets there, it just KILLS you. I just couldn’t stop the tears. And in this last part of the movie, Emma Stone goes from being just Emma Stone, who we’ve now seen for years, the almost garden variety movie ingenue doing almost the same raspy-voiced, big-eyed schtick, suddenly transforms into the great Screen Goddess we all hoped she would be, and she turns into an actress of such unexpected depth and poignancy, as well as beauty, that glows like uranium, or more accurately Oscar gold.

    She’s Hollywood’s new Princess. The envelope, please.la-la-land-8

    E.T.A. “La La Land” just led the pack with SEVEN Golden Globe nominations! More on this later.

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